The New Orleans City Council on Thursday (Oct. 19) confirmed Anne Kirkpatrick as the city’s next police chief, ending a monthslong search process that critics derided as riddled with transparency issues. 

The final 6-1 vote, with all council members but Oliver Thomas voting in favor of Kirkpatrick, came after brief discussion from the council and a handful of comments from residents, who mostly disapproved of Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s pick for the job.

The council’s vote makes Kirkpatrick, who was the first female chief of the Oakland Police Department, also the first woman to permanently helm the New Orleans Police Department.

Before the council vote, Kirkpatrick repeated her goals to commit fully to the city and to the job. “I wanted to be here in New Orleans,” Kirkpatrick said. “I will be all in.”

“Chief Kirkpatrick’s experience and knowledge are unmatched, and I have the utmost confidence that she will continue to build off the progress already being made by our department,” Cantrell said in a statement following the vote.

The confirmation of Kirkpatrick marks the first time the council has used its new power to hire a new chief, following a city charter amendment that passed last year requiring council approval of top executive branch positions. 

Though the council had the ultimate say on who got the job, councilmembers have critiqued the monthslong selection process over a lack of transparency by the Cantrell administration and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the outside group tasked with performing a candidate search. 

Residents at public hearings on Kirkpatrick’s nomination have also voiced preferences for NOPD’s own Michelle Woodfork, one of the mayor’s three finalists for the role and a local New Orleanian. Woodfork, who was initially thought to be Cantrell’s top choice for the job, served as interim chief following the retirement of Superintendent Shaun Ferguson last year. 

“We got a national search, but not a public one,” Council President JP Morrell said, reflecting on the selection process of the new chief. He added that despite these issues, the alternative — a selection process that wouldn’t have involved the council — would have completely shut out the council and the public. 

Kirkpatrick has already been serving as interim superintendent for the past month. As she assumes her new role, she will inherit an understaffed department under a decade-long federal consent decree. She stated at a hearing last week that complying with the decree — and ultimately getting the city out of federal oversight — remains one of her top priorities, alongside bolstering recruitment, engaging the community and tackling high crime rates. To reach these goals, she said she plans to prioritize collaboration with the council, the federal monitor, and U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan, who has overseen the police department under the decree. 

As council members grilled her  on her qualifications to lead a distressed police department in a majority-Black city, Kirkpatrick, who is white, discussed her experience as a police chief in four cities, including Oakland, California, a racially diverse city similarly under a decades-long and ongoing consent decree. She’s also worked for the Chicago Police Department and holds a law degree from Seattle University Law School.

Kirkpatrick left Oakland in 2020 after a civilian commission abruptly fired her. Officials in Oakland alleged she failed to comply with the city’s consent decree, reform the department or address a pattern of racial discrimination. Kirkpatrick filed a whistleblower lawsuit, arguing that she was wrongfully terminated for exposing illegal conduct within the commission. Last year, her claims were vindicated by federal court, and a jury awarded her more than $300,000.

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Josie Abugov is an undergraduate fellow at Harvard Magazine and the former editor-at-large of The Crimson’s weekly magazine, Fifteen Minutes. Abugov has previously interned for the CNN Documentary Unit...